This week, Kevin and Bethany are going old school. Put on some heavy metal for this one, because we’re taking a look at CW’s The Flash.
What do we remember the most about our childhoods? There are the exceptionally good moments that stand out – fun trips, close friends, memorable holidays – but usually those fade with time. I can remember with absolute clarity certain birthday presents, and a couple fun moments of a trip to the Wisconsin Dells1, but the rest are sort of a mishmash of scattered faces and songs and scenes that I can pick out with a minor amount of effort.
Stronger than that, however, are the bad memories. Broken bones, family difficulties. A lot of these are specific to the individual, but one thing that a majority of children have in common are the neighborhood and/or school bullies.
I don’t remember most of the people I went to school with, aside from a handful of friends (some of whom I still keep in contact with), but I can still describe the biggest bullies on our block with forensic detail.
Some things stick with you. Some things are hard to leave behind.
The episode may be old, but spoiler warnings are still in full effect after the cut.
The only thing worse than a hated bully is when a hated bully gets superpowers2. And while it’s interesting that we don’t get to see Tony as anything other than That Guy Who Never Left High School – where, in other shows, we might be given a more sympathetic look at his own upbringing and traumatic struggles – it also gives our Science Siblings yet another thing to connect with. And, frankly, while it might be slightly one-dimensional, I cannot truly be objective here and say that it wasn’t entirely cathartic.
YOU GOT SUPERSONIC PUNCHED, ASSHOLE
It’s interesting that so far, most of the metahumans are people that died during the storm. Mardon was blown up in a plane, Nimbus was in the gas chamber, and our blue-collar Colossus here fell victim to unfollowed OSHA regulations. I mean, even Barry was struck by lightning and it’s safe to assume that his heart did stop at one point (even though afterwards it was beating too fast for the EKG to register). Obviously this isn’t fully inclusive, but it’s definitely a common thread.
I don’t want to spend too much time talking about Blast Hardcheese, though, because this episode was a huge breakthrough for my girl Iris West. Not only did she provide both the opening and closing narrations – something previously monopolized by Barry – but she was the linchpin of the entire episode.
“My hearing is fine, just selective.” Iris has no time for patronizing bullshit in a shiny red suit, and she has no problems saying so. Yes, she knows it’s dangerous to write about
The Flash The Streak. Yes, she knows that the superpowered bully is after her. She does not care. Iris West is going to do what she does best and she can handle herself.
What does she do when she gets captured? Immediately hit the fire alarm so that the police will know where she is. And when Barry works out a way to disrupt Gristle McThornbody’s adamantium powers, it’s still Iris that gets in the knockout blow.
Even in the flashback, we’re shown that Iris has always been better at fighting than Barry.
“You want me to hit a girl?”
“He wants you to TRY.”
So far this season is about Barry getting a handle on his powers, and discovering new things he can do. And what I love about this is that it’s not shown as mid-season powerups that never get explained properly (well, until The Thing That Happens At The End Of Season Two, at least), and he also remembers when they’re useful and doesn’t need to be told “HEY MAYBE YOU SHOULD USE THAT THING”.
This week, Barry learns – from a variety of sources, mind you – that while Force Equals Mass Times Acceleration, the Speed Force Equals MASSIVE ACCELERATION, and the two concepts can actually be used in concert with one another.
BARRY: “How fast would I have to go?”
CISCO: “Factoring in the metal’s tensile strength, estimated dermal thickness, atmospheric pressure, air temp, you’d have to hit him at approximately… Mach 1.1.”
CAITLIN: “You want Barry to hit something at eight hundred miles an hour?”
CISCO: “Eight hundred thirty-seven, actually.”
CAITLIN: “That’s faster than the speed of sound.”
CISCO: “I know! He’d create a sonic boom, which as I said before, would be awesome.”
BARRY: “I’ve never gone that fast.”
CAITLIN: “I can’t believe we’re entertaining this idea. I mean he’d need a straight shot from miles away.”
CISCO: “Yeah. five point three miles, theoretically.”
…what? Don’t look at me like that. You were wondering, too3.
Things to note this episode:
- Eddie, who is proving to be a really decent person, starts teaching Barry how to fight properly, which is great because Barry’s been relying on his speed too much, and the moment he slows down he gets clobbered.
- If Bruce Wayne ever teaches Barry how to fight properly, he’ll be unstoppable. Until then, Oliver Queen will help that along, but that’s another episode.
- Joe is the best. “What kind of tool steals a yellow Humvee?” “What kind of tool BUYS a yellow Humvee?”
- A MAN OF STEEL, WELLS, REALLY
- Caitlin pointedly setting Barry’s dislocated arm while he’s lying to her about Iris. No discussion of that, just… I’m basking in the simple pleasures in life.
- I absolutely love the lightning effects. There’s a thing they did this episode that they’ve done once or twice before, the lightning filling his eyes as he was preparing for action, but it was way more effective here. Dramatic, dynamic, and it really just looked amazing.
Let’s start with a tangent.
A few weeks ago I was driving home from work, and I saw a guy who I thought was my friend David. I just saw him out of the corner of my eye. And when I turned my head to really look at him, I realized it wasn’t him. So I started trying to figure out why I thought it had been David. This guy did kinda look like him. He had the same general body type, some facial similarities, he had the same gait. And I had to think about it for a minute, but I remembered that David had a brother that lived in the area, walked everywhere, and his work was very near the street he was crossing. So, mystery solved, this was my friend’s younger brother. David and I have known each other since last September, and we dated (kinda intensely) for about six months of that time, so I knew him fairly well, but not as well as Iris West would know Barry Allen.
So. I mean. Iris is a smart, observant girl, and Barry’s voice, even when doing the vibrating thing, still sounds like Barry’s voice. He still stands like Barry. His body is shaped the way Barry’s is. I can’t imagine her not recognizing him- she’s known him forever. They grew up together. I have a lot of difficulty believing that Iris cannot put two and two together and get Barry, you know? I find it weird that there’s not even a suspicion in her head, that maybe Barry might be this dude. Or, at least, that there’s nothing familiar about the Flash to her. (To be clear, I think this is a writing problem.) I mean, one of my favorite moments in any superhero movie ever was in the Green Lantern (which was, otherwise, an incredibly awful movie) was when Carol IMMEDIATELY RECOGNIZED Hal because duh.
Anyway, tangent over.
I really enjoyed this episode and Kevin hit all the really pertinent stuff, so I’m just gonna meander around and touch on things I noticed and enjoyed, in no particular order.
Eddie is just a really nice guy. He reaches out to Barry several times, not just in an attempt to figure out what’s going on between Iris and Barry, but also when he found out that the bad guy had bullied Barry in high school. He’s supportive. He and Barry even ~bonded~. It was really kind of sweet. I really just love that they paired Iris with a guy who is not a jerk. There’s no “he’s bad for you, he’s a jerk, and I’m better” narrative to be had, here. Eddie’s a good guy, and he makes Iris happy, end of statement.
(Side note: I may have missed it, but I don’t think Cisco came up with a villain name for this bad guy. I think I know why. His name is Tony and he has, um, iron-like qualities. Draw your own conclusions.)
(Related-ish: I wonder how many metahumans passed the time between the reactor incident and this episode. We know that Barry and the cool explosion lady from the previous episode were in comas, and since we’re just starting to see all the metas come around and start shit, one might assume that everyone else was also unconscious or in some similar, coma-like state while their body rewired or whatever. Like, how long was it before Tony pulled himself out of the formerly-molten slag heap? I wonder if this is ever revisited.)
The robot named “Girder” that Cisco makes to help Barry train… that has to be a reference to Bender, right? Is it just me?
Joe spent a lot of his time this episode getting closer to Dr. Wells and diving deeper into the mystery of Who Offed Barry’s Mom. Some of it is not really honest – he thinks there’s a connection between Wells and the death of Nora Allen. Eventually he scraps the idea (prematurely) and he and Wells have a genuine kind of bonding moment. Then, at the end, the same yellow speedster that murdered Nora Allen (probably) takes all of Joe’s notes and the old case file, leaving a note threatening Iris.
I leave you with my final thought of the episode. This is just from my raw notes that I take while I’m watching to keep track of my thoughts, and they’re generally incoherent:
YOU LEAVE JOE ALONE YOU YELLOW BASTARD AND IF YOU TOUCH IRIS I WILL FUCKING SKIN YOU
See you next week!
Kevin O’Shea is a writer and proud supporter of anti-bullying campaigns. You can find him on Twitter (@osheamobile), Tumblr (osheamobile), or cleaning up shattered glass from street-level sonic booms.
Bethany the Martian is an abuser of parentheses and works in the Pizza Mines. She can be found on Twitter (@martianbethany – the account is locked for safety, not privacy, most follow requests will be accepted) and on Tumblr (bethanythemartian).
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- When I was seven. I got to drive a Duck into a lake and kick a clown in the butt in front of an entire audience. That was a good summer.
- You know. As they do.
- Mach speeds are calculated differently depending on elevation, and it’s 837.3 miles/hour at sea level. Assuming that Central City is ~vaguely~ St. Louis, Missouri, the elevation (465 feet) actually puts Mach 1.1 at 836 mph BUT WE’LL JUST IGNORE THAT4
- Look both Wolfram Alpha and Google are right there, you can’t expect me to not be curious.