[Review] The Flash (2014) – 2×04: “The Fury Of Firestorm”

Tensions really flare up in this week’s episode. Have a seat and bond with your friends, because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash.


BETHANY

What does family mean to you?

This show asks this question a lot, in a lot of different ways. We probably all have different faces we picture in our heads when we think about our family. Parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, even close friends who aren’t related by blood. It varies from person to person, as do the shape and size.

Here’s something I don’t talk about a whole lot. If you follow me on Twitter, you may already know, but not all of y’all do, so here it is: I don’t talk to my mom. In the last, oh…four? Five years? I think I’ve sent her one email. I cut her out of my life. My reasons are…well, they’re pretty personal, and it’s not just about me, so it’s not my story to tell. One of the reasons my Twitter was marked private for so long is that my mother Twitter-creeps on me, and I’ve heard about it third-hand once or twice. It used to make me uneasy, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.

So when I refer to “my parents”, I’m talking about my dad and my stepmom.

That’s not unusual. Not even the way I’ve cut my mother out of my life is unusual – a lot of us have had to remove toxic people from our lives. It makes me a little…sensitive about some things, though.

Spoilers occur under the cut.

I couldn’t talk about it last week, but I’ve been thinking about it, and I do have something to say.

Here’s the thing about Joe lying to Iris. I do understand why he did it. Francine walked out of their lives, and he didn’t ever want Iris to feel like she wasn’t loved by her mother. I understand why Iris forgives him so quickly, in this case. I do. And while I’m a little oversensitive about parents lying to their children (for reasons), Joe was doing it from a place of love.

When I was younger, my mother made a point of often telling me, point blank, that my father loved my siblings more than me. Not only was this untrue, but it did a lot of harm to the relationship Dad and I had when I was younger. It worked to destroy my self-esteem and it took us years to get past.

Joe never wanted that for Iris. He never wanted her to feel like her mother didn’t care.

I do think this lie started Joe’s habit of lying to his kids to protect their feelings, which is a distinct character flaw. But, seeing it over time, it’s not out of character, especially when you add this to the mix. He’s overprotective of his kids to the point where he tries to manage their feelings. Especially looking at his actions in context with Francine endangering Iris by leaving, as well as with what happened to Barry’s family, it makes sense. It’s not right, but I see his rationale.

I can empathize while I still dislike what he’s doing.

Iris is, as you can imagine, much easier to empathize with. She was hurt by her father’s confession (well within rights) but she is quicker to forgive than I would have been, perhaps because she understands him much better, how much he was doing it out of love. And possibly because of how hurt she was by her mother’s actions.

Her mother put her in harm’s way. Her mother walked away and never looked back, and it stung. When Francine wants back into her life Iris tells her, unequivocally, “no”. She is not ready, and may never be, and that is her right.

Francine reveals that she is dying of MacGregor’s Syndrome, which is a fictional illness. If you feel like you’ve heard it before but can’t place where, it was named as the cause of Mr. Freeze’s wife’s illness. It’s the reason why he froze her in Batman and Robin. In that movie, Alfred is also dying from the same disease. On The Flash, William Tockman (the guy Iris shot) was also dying of it. Francine tells Joe this because that’s why she’s trying to reconnect so hard right now.

Iris does some digging to confirm this story, and discovers that Francine had a kid eight months after she left. In an interesting (and revealing) conversation, Iris asks if Joe is the father of this child. She asks, “do I have a brother?”

Now, by the numbers, she does. Even if Joe is not the father, Iris and this unnamed kid would still be siblings. My sister is technically my half-sister. She and I only share a father, but she’s still my sister, and that doesn’t change. (Even when she eats the rest of my lactose-free ice cream. She can digest lactose! Leave my ice cream alone!)

It’s clear that Iris has separated herself from her mother so much, she does not consider that half-sibling relationship valid. This person would only be her sibling if Joe was his father. It’s understandable, and I think it’s mostly spoken out of anger which is still very, very fresh. (Iris has a big heart, so I think she would be willing to reach out to her brother eventually, even if Joe was not his father.)

I think maybe that’s the moment when Francine realizes how damaged her relationship with Iris is.

It also reveals that Iris, too, is willing to conceal the truth to keep her father happy. Guys, please, you’re killing me here.

Anyway, I want to hit on the Firestorm thing real quick (I’ll let my esteemed colleague cover most of it), but here’s the short version. Professor Stein is dying and they need to find someone who can replace Ronnie. Two guys make the shortlist: a scientist and a former football player turned mechanic. Hewitt, the science guy, is favored because he’s a scientist. (There’s some real kind of snobbery and classism going on here; like, obnoxiously so.) Jax is a closer match, but he’s only a mechanic so I guess he’s not good enough? (Argh.)

Here’s the thing, though. When they bring in Hewitt to talk to him about it, he says, “I always thought my destiny was for greater things.”

Guys, this is the beginning of a supervillain monologue. How did you not see this was gonna go wrong?

(Barry actually doesn’t like it, but he is overruled and Stein is running out of time.)

Anyway, here’s a short list to end on.

  • When Cait first suggests they need to find another Firestorm participant, Cisco jokes about using Tinder to find one and my response was “Dude, no, this is definitely a Craigslist-type situation”
  • After they try the Firestorm thing with Hewitt and it doesn’t work, it still gives him powers, and he ends up setting everything in his lab on fire, and all I could think was “Man, I’ve had days like that, too.”
  • It’s…nice? I guess? That Joe feels Barry is his son enough that he has to lie to protect his feelings?
  • (Harrison Wells steals something from Dr. McGee’s lab and she saw him, and Joe doesn’t want Barry to know.)
  • Professor Stein takes Cisco aside and tells him, warmly and lovingly, that it’s okay to be scared of his superpowers but that he should still tell his friends. Stein is the Science Dad they all deserve.
  • There’s a really great scene where Joe tells Iris about a nice family outing with Iris and both of her parents. It rings true, and his description of her obsession with the ice cream she had that day is friggin’ adorable. Joe is really supportive of however Iris wants to handle the situation with her Mom, instead of urging her one way or another, but he’s trying to ease the way to facilitate connection at this point because he’s not sure how Iris is going to handle it. The support and love he offers Iris during this time is another reason I think it’s so easy for her to forgive him.

KEVIN

There’s a lot to be said on the topic of nuclear families and the importance (or at least the perceived importance) thereof, and it’s a recurring theme throughout the series. Barry Allen has a lot of found family1, so much so that his actual blood family got written off the show and they just kind of…moved on.

Barry does have a slightly more literal nuclear family, however – as awkwardly as Professor Stein joined Team Flash, he’s still part of Team Flash and always will be2.

Here’s the thing about Firestorm: they work best when there are two distinct personalities melded together to form one greater whole. Someone who is just like Martin Stein won’t be as compatible, because like tends to repel like – especially in particle physics. Ionic bonds work best when you have opposite charges, and the reason that Ronnie Raymond worked so well with Professor Stein is because they were so different.

Ronnie was an engineer, whereas Martin is a quantum physicist. Ronnie was cheerful and exuberant, while Martin is far more melancholic.

It’s easy to see why Jax is far more compatible with Martin than the self-centered Hewitt. From his very first appearance in the cold open, he’s been helpful and team-oriented. Not only was his establishing character moment set by attributing a game-winning touchdown to his injured teammates, he then risked life and limb – messing up the limb in question in the process – to help people get away from the particle accelerator explosion.

Hewitt’s reactions to the Firestorm matrix were always focused on himself. What prestige he could gain, what abilities he could use. The fact that he would also be saving Martin Stein’s life in the process wasn’t even mentioned.

Jax, on the other hand, went into Firestorm to help people. To stop Hewitt, but also first and foremost to save Martin’s life, a man he only met once before, and had been summarily dismissed by.

Jax also has the physical attributes to offset Martin’s mental capabilities, and his mechanical aptitude will be a huge benefit to his role as a superhero, but those differences with Martin also needed to be glued together by a shared desire to help. To be Firestorm not for the glory, but for justice.

Scattered Thoughts:

  • Damn it, Joe, stop dragging people into your web of lies.
    • Bethany hit the nail on the head when she said that Joe’s compulsion to lie first, explain later is based on his fears and overprotectiveness, and Barry is just as much his kid as Iris. The main difference here is that Barry’s now the one on that end of the lie.
  • Badass Adorable Detective Spivot is a gift of sunshine and happiness and I really want her to come back this season (currently in the middle of Season Three at the time of this publishing).
    • Seriously, she hears “Man-Shark” and immediately starts a case file.
    • And then when she sees the damn thing and it’s bigger than a building? She runs into the action without question.
    • And while she’s being respectful of Barry’s decision to turn her down, she still has no problem with going after what she wants.
    • Let’s just…I love her, okay?
  • Cisco’s face when he goes “there are two Dr. Steins”.
  • (Drs. Stein?)
  • It’s definitely a class thing, and I’m super white so I can’t really be the one to go in on the racial aspects of it, but was anyone else super uncomfortable with Caitlin guilting at Jax for not being rich enough to go to college?
  • Martin Stein’s Firestorm theme is only half of what it should be. When Jax joins in, it becomes an all-new theme.
  • Martin Stein, you’re a legend.
  • For reference: Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor.
  • KING SHARK
  • Harrison Wells to the…rescue?
  • The leitmotif for Harrison Wells – not Eobard Thawne – returns. It’s the basis for the S.T.A.R. Labs theme, as well.

Kevin O’Shea is a writer and also not really a football fan at all? You can find him on Twitter (@osheamobile), Tumblr (osheamobile), or pricing out coffee mugs and travel tumblers with the CC Jitters logo on them.

Bethany the Martian is an abuser of parentheses and works in the Pizza Mines. She can be found on Twitter (@martianbethany) and on Tumblr (bethanythemartian).

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  1. The running joke is that Barry Allen has just as many dads as Steven Universe has moms. They actually call attention to that at the end of this season and it’s great, so there’s that to look forward to.
  2. …until he gets his own team during mid-season sweeps. But that’s beside the point.

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