This week’s episode has just absolutely blown us away. Drop your clocks and grab your socks, because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash.
As a note, before we begin, I want to say that I started to go ahead and catch up on the show. I didn’t see that going into the episodes blind was having any impact on my reviews, positive or negative, and I really wanted to watch the show, so I went with the “eh, screw it” school of thought.
There’s a lot to talk about, so spoilers under the cut.
There are about three simultaneous plot threads running through this episode. (They have a lot of branching consequences and maybe I missed one because A Lot Happens but this is the main thrust.)
Thread 1: Mark Mardon, brother to the dude who shot Joe’s partner (and ended up dead at the end of Episode 1) is after Joe for revenge. He has some pretty sweet weather abilities (which somehow includes raising tsunamis? Which I thought were seismic in nature, and not weather-related?)
Thread 2: Iris super-awkwardly planting herself in the path of Barry’s relationship because she’s starting to realize that She Has Feelings, Too.
Thread 3: Prompted by suspicions from Iris’s supervisor (though trainer may be more accurate, or mentor), Cisco and, sorta, Cait start suspecting Something Is Up with Harrison Wells
They all intertwine. Here’s where they are at nearly the end of the episode.
Thread 1: Mark has used his sweet weather powers to capture Cop Dad (and beat him up and break his leg) and is going to take out the entire city with a tsunami because fuck everyone, y’all.
Thread 2: Iris confesses her ~feelings~ and she and Barry kiss, then he has to reveal to her that he is the Flash in order to save the day.
Thread 3: Cisco figures out that the energy trap thing they used to try to capture the Reverse Flash failed because someone fucked with it, and that the dude in the cage was actually some sort of playback feature with a set recording (and angry helicopter noises). Harrison Wells (who is actually Eobard Thawne) finally reveals himself to a character before he completely murders the most precious cinnamon roll of the show, Cisco Ramon. Crushes his heart. Kills him dead.
So, I’m gonna tackle each thread in turn, then hit up with some final bullet points.
Thread 1: Joe is super-hyped to get after this guy. He wants to run Mardon down. As the stakes get higher, so does his determination to do so. It’s understandable – Mardon’s brother killed his partner, and Joe and his dead partner ran after the Mardon brothers for years.
What is not understandable is when he tells both Eddie and Barry to keep all this stuff a secret from Iris.
Like, I get not telling her a lot of cop business. She doesn’t need to know the stuff that goes on every day, first of all, because a lot of it is either awful or boring. (I have an uncle who used to be a police officer. He only ever told us kids the funny stories – there’s a great one about a cow – but he’d occasionally talk to my aunts about finding bodies and stuff, which I heard through the grapevine. I totally get him not wanting to talk to us about it.)
However, his life is clearly in danger. He’s being hunted by a guy who beat a coroner to death with balls of ice just to get information out of him. Iris’s life is also in very real danger – and even if that wasn’t quite so clear, or weren’t true at all, her father was being actively pursued by a dangerous man with vendetta on the mind. She has a right to know this. It is very clear that lying to Iris about the situation is not going to make her safer. It is very concerning that Joe’s instinct is often “let’s lie to my adult daughter about the very important stuff going on around her, because if she knew she might make a Sad Face”. Which was, and I’m not exaggerating, his Actual Justification. (“Let’s keep that pretty smile on her face.”) Ugh.
I want to repeat, again, that Iris West once punched a guy in the face who could turn into metal. In the face. Hard. She shot a guy. (Because he thought she would be less trouble than her dad. We all knew that was a mistake in the making.) I absolutely cannot fathom Joe’s desire to keep this a secret from her.
It’s very troubling.
On the good side of things, actual great dude Eddie Thawne refuses to let Cop Dad go it alone, and shows up while Joe is searching for Mardon. It doesn’t work, because Joe still gets kidnapped by a tornado or something, and then Eddie gives a rousing “we will find Joe if we have to tear up every floorboard in the city” speech at the police station while Iris and Barry make googly eyes at each other (blargh).
Thread 2: Here is my main beef with this “oh Iris really does have feelings” deal. At no point in the show has Actual Badass Iris West actually appeared to have romantic feelings towards her brother/friend until, like, two episodes ago. Do they have some interesting chemistry? Yes. But that’s been it. And chemistry can, does, and will happen between people who will not have a romantic or sexual (or both) relationship. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. A relationship needs more than that.
Furthermore, we have no onscreen justification for Iris’s sudden attraction to Barry. Some has been shoehorned in (oh this girl Barry dated in high school, Iris didn’t like her), but until Barry started dating someone, Iris never showed an interest beyond friendship. This feels so forced, and it has really put me off the idea of Barry and Iris being a thing. (Plus, Iris deserves to date a guy who doesn’t constantly lie to her. I don’t feel like that’s a high bar.)
If they had justified this attraction, this weirdness, in some way, I could get it. But it seems to come out of nowhere, and it…well, Kevin said it really well when he mentioned that it feels like it comes from a ’90s sitcom. She gave a kind of speech at the end and it was just “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you and I don’t want to” and it did nothing for me.
If she had even just said “I didn’t even realize it was an option” or some variant thereof, I would be less grumbly about this. That’s a legitimate reason for this to have switched on! They share a dad, it would have been easy to put Barry into the “never gonna happen” category based on that alone, and then get to thinking, after he reveals his love, and go “well, damn, I never thought about him that way but now that I am“. And maybe that’s what they were trying to get across but, dang, try harder.
I did scream out “FUCKING FINALLY” when Barry revealed he was also the Flash and then raced off to save the city.
Thread 3: Eobard Thawne, as Harrison Wells, explains everything to Cisco. He says something like “I think of you like a son” and it’s almost tender. Then he crushes Cisco’s heart. Literally, as well as figuratively.
Cisco Ramon crying is a very difficult thing to watch, lemme tell you.
I didn’t entirely buy his “speed mirage” answer to how both the Reverse Flash and Wells could appear together at the same time because they were wearing very different clothing, at the time. So I went back to Episode 9 and re-watched that scene. Here’s how it breaks down – there’s some kind of recording in the containment unit. Then it appears to break out of the field long enough to grab Wells and drag him in – fair enough, the right timing is all that would take, the recording flashes towards the barrier edge and possibly even outside of it while Wells zaps in. The fake fight could be partially a recording as well, with Wells beating himself up too fast to be seen. So far, so cool. Then, Harrison is still in the containment thing, so now that image could be a mirage while Reverse Flash zaps out and slaps the cops around.
It actually seems like this isn’t even a necessary explanation, upon reviewing the scene. Most of it could be done with the recording in the containment thingie.
You know what? I think I just got nerd-sniped.
Time for a bullet list, I guess:
- Apparently ice cream headaches/brain freeze are also known as trigeminal headaches and I really only wanted to mention this because I have dentures, therefore there is a thick layer of plastic between any cold thing in my mouth and the nerves in the mouth that stimulate these headaches, so I don’t get them, nyah.
- I can’t chew gum anymore; there had to be some kind of trade-off.
- As a subplot, Captain Singh gets badly injured (and may never walk again).
- Upshot is that we get to finally meet Captain Singh’s fiancé, who reveals that Singh “speaks very highly of Barry”, coming as a shock to Barry.
- I wonder how many cops at that police station have semi-adopted Barry. He’s a cop’s kid who sorta joined up, even if he’s kind of a nerdy science kid, is late and awkward, and gets on their nerves…he’s still theirs, if that makes sense.
- I wish we knew more about the greater police family at CCPD is my point, I guess. Seems like it should be there.
- I wrote “god my hand smells like onions” while I was taking notes which has nothing to do with the show, I just had to chop onions at work today and sometimes touch my face when I’m thinking about what to type.
- They still smell like onions, btw.
- With a tsunami coming, the waterline should have receded way back from the shore.and don’t you ~Silver Age~ me, Kevin.
- Weather Wizard is such a great, dumb villain name.
- Whenever Wells takes his glasses off, he’s about to break the Wells character. It’s his tell.
- While speeding off to the coroner’s close to the beginning of the episode, Barry appears to pass himself. Wells brushes it off as a mirage, but promises they’ll look into it later.
The thing about this episode, though, is when it ends, it seems as though we are almost back to the beginning – right before Barry gets to the coroner’s office – and they discover that Mardon is after Joe. It seems like Barry was running so fast to put up some kind of vortex barrier (lol wut) between the town and the oncoming death that he ran back in time.
In other words, To Be Continued…
Kevin O’Shea is a writer–
No, sorry, couldn’t resist. But that would have been a pretty good place to leave my half of the review, huh?
Let’s talk about time travel.
There are, as Cisco mentioned already, different theories of time travel. Predestination Paradox. Changing the future. Multiverse Theory.
The Flash, as a series, can’t seem to figure out where it stands on time travel, but it tends towards changing the past can affect the future…except in the places where it doesn’t. Though, to be fair, those ones are weird and unexplained because fuck it the writers are moving on.
When Barry breaks through the timestream and arrives in the past next to himself, his past self fades out of existence and Barry Prime replaces him, which is a bit weird, but it works.
But how does Harribard travel through time, if there is no past self for him to replace? There’s an inconsistency there.
A Season Two plot point is what happens when the past self doesn’t fade away, resulting in a paradox clone – or as they call them, “time remnants”. How do you intentionally do that? How does that work? Nobody knows.
We’ll talk more about the effects of time travel as we get to part two next week.
- They make a point to show Wells and Cisco hanging out in the beginning specifically to more firmly establish the fact that their relationship is fairly genuine, on both sides – we’ve seen before that Wells shows signs of genuinely caring about Cisco and Caitlin and even Barry at times.
- There’s also a beautifully acted moment of honest regret as Wells kills Cisco. The “from my perspective, you’ve been dead for centuries” line doesn’t really hit the way you want it to hit when you form a genuine attachment, Thawne.
- It doesn’t matter, though. He made Cisco cry. He has to die.
- No, you’re crying.
- The first time I saw this episode and saw Reverse Flash killing people by vibrating his hand enough to phase through their chests and stop their hearts, I wondered why he needed to kill Nora Allen with a knife. Then I remembered that he also pinned it on Henry, so he needed evidence to plant.
- Can I just say that, superspeed initially seems like a silly power, but that’s pretty much because the heroic speedsters tend to be pretty silly and cheerful themselves? It’s not until you see an evil speedster, or a heroic speedster going all out, that you realize how terrifying they can be.
- Case in point, Cartoon Wally West. Lovable dork, super silly and cheerful, absolutely terrifying when he gets serious or mind-controlled by Lex Luthor.
- When Cisco is voicing his fears to Caitlin, you can hear the Reverse Flash’s leitmotif in the background. It has the same scale sliding progression that Barry’s theme does, but it cuts out most of the notes and leaves a sinister and more deliberate framework.
- Good on Linda and Eddie for not taking any of the weirdness. Linda Park and Eddie Thawne deserve better.
- Going to slightly disagree with Bethany here – they did show the waterline receding along the beach. Although it was only slightly and for half a second so it still probably doesn’t count.
- Damn it, Barry, half the people on the beach saw you change into your supersuit.
- Man, when they have Barry head off to do something epic, they don’t mess around. See also the season finale, “Fast Enough”.
Next week, the conclusion.
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