Excuse me while I try to hold myself together for a moment.
Listen, it’s silly to be addicted to a television show but there’s a level of escapism that The Flash has provided me as of late that makes it hard to not have it on every week. It’s just so much fun and has gotten better and better as time has passed-no small feat in a shows first season, just go ahead and ask their neighbor Arrow. A serialized television show, particularly one with comic book origins is always going to be met with a certain array of road blocks.
Do they play up character drama to help elongate a season that already feels like it’s dragging while trying to conjure up the energy for the final boost (Arrow season one)? Do they meander and float about on the fans enthusiasm for an entire season before finally kicking it into high gear at the last moment (Agents of SHIELD season one)? Or do they come up with a barrel of half-baked ideas and hope some theme sticks (Gotham right now)?
First seasons are difficult and we’ve already seen The Flash deal with some of them. But they’ve been few and far in between and the confident show continues to steadily rise in quality. My only fear is how much material they’ll have by the end of the season but with the way it’s going and the way the stakes were drastically raised this week, it’s hard to doubt the show-runners Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg.
Arrow grew into itself over time and The Flash has had the benefit of retrospect. Berlanti and Kreisberg got to see what did and didn’t work and the payoff has been immense-with one of the series greatest achievements taking place in this weeks “Fallout”, a seemingly innocuous episode that quickly proves it’s worth as the stakes are raised and the emotional stability of our leads put in a more precarious position.
We learn right off the bat that Ronnie and Professor Stein survived the explosion which was simply the two separating and there’s some comedic mileage made out of these polar opposites being forced inside the same head for so long. They want nothing but to get as far away from one another as possible but, as the story would have it, their fate is intertwined. Even as their bodies are separated their subconscious’ still are united which ends up benefitting the team when Stein is taken later in the episode.
There are so many great moments in this episode and notes for each character that help set the path for what’s to come in the rest of the season. Iris gets some action this week as she takes an assertive stance at her job to be a reporter whose focus isn’t just The Flash. However, her investigation into Star Labs is obviously tied closer to the speedster than she knows. She’s been lead into this however by Ronnie when she begins to put two and two together about the mysterious burning man and Caitlin’s “cousin” suddenly making an appearance.
Caitlin and Ronnie are reunited and it makes me wish Robbie Amell was sticking around for a bit longer because he and Danielle Panabaker share a warm chemistry. His reunion with the Star Labs team was a bittersweet one when we realized just how short lived it was going to be.
Their visit is stopped short because of the intrusion of the military who’s looking to use FIRESTORM as a weapon. With the aid of a shifty Doctor Wells they learn that Stein could be the key to utilizing the full source of the power. They capture him and torture him and it’s with Ronnie’s reckless quick thinking that he somehow has a chance of making it out alive. It was a nice contrast to see Ronnie and Stein’s different means of communications. Their connection allows Barry to race him and Ronnie to the military base where Stein’s being held and with Barry under an barrage of attacks with some high tech weaponry the two decide they must link back together to escape alive. It’s a powerful moment and one that showcases the goodness of human nature where potential sacrifice is worth it when loved ones are in danger.
The three, however, do make it out alive but Ronnie and Stein have decided to explore their ability which means Ronnie having to say goodbye to Caitlin once again.
The episode is so much more than the basic sums of its main narrative though and that’s what makes it such an exciting watch. The past two episodes, while entertaining, have seemed mildly scatter-brained, ill-equipped to deal with the multitude of storylines they were juggling. Despite riling up the tension this week they also took a step back and assessed. They placed humor where it needed to be (and there was a decent amount), made sure the threats against Barry felt real as did Harrison’s motives of protecting him, and left us with scene with Grodd and Wells in the Reverse Flash’s costume in the same shot.
There’s a section of the storyline that I’ve pushed aside until now because, despite its brief running time it’s the one that landed the mark the hardest. The ability to travel through time is real for Barry and that’s about to shake the focus of his narrative. Not only was it fun to watch Stein get so damn excited over the possibility of time travel (Victor Garber was all charisma in this scene), it was fun to realize that it was a possibility for this version of the Flash period. The Flashpoint Paradox comparisons are apparent but see it confirmed on a live action version of the character is different and it opens up a wealth of opportunities for the show. Not only that but the emotional heft of the episode came in the small moment where Joe shows Barry what Cisco discovered. Barry’s muttered “mom” is enough to let us know that this is world altering for Barry. He now believes he can save him mom and it’s going to be a hell of ride to see if he gets the chance and what he’ll do if he does.
One of my favorite episodes of television in a while this is The Flash at it’s best and I’m excited to see if it can continue to best itself.