Last week we saw Barry Allen become the Flash, without the title yet of course, and this week we see him start to embrace what that means: what it means to be a hero. He can run fast, but that doesn’t make him invincible as Detective West points out, as Barry struggles with his body readjusting to his new limits, his daytime job on the police force as a forensic scientist, his side job as resident hero, and his strained relationships with unrequited love interest Iris and pseudo father figure West.
It’s a lot for a young man to handle, but luckily, as expressed in this week’s episode “Fastest Man Alive,” he has quite the support team. The villain of the week is the Multiplex, a man who developed meta-human powers after an accelerator dysfunction and ended up being able to clone himself. He’s been causing havoc around town by multiplying himself, but his real focus is on Simon Stagg, his previous employer who fired him and stole his research for his own gain. His interference killed his wife and he wants vengeance. The Flash has to target his real self in order to knock out the clones, and we see how well the CGI can be utilized as he runs through the crowd while simultaneously focusing on the faces of each and every clone before finding the right one and knocking him momentarily unconscious.
However, the real weight of the episode comes from Barry’s personal life, mainly, his relationship with Joe. We find Barry at the start of the episode positively gleeful over his abilities and the lives he’s been able to save with them, but something isn’t entirely right. He’s begun to pass out after exerting himself, and in one of my favorite scenes of the episode, the science gang realizes it’s a glucose issue: he isn’t eating enough. Whatever he ate before won’t sustain the metabolism he has now, and he runs the risk of hypoglycemia. It’s something that many origin stories wouldn’t touch; the specifics at the start of a hero’s journey aren’t always the most screen- friendly, but in this case it simply helped humanize the character and make him all the more relatable.
Joe finds out and lashes out at Barry for being too irresponsible, and we’re shown flashbacks to when Barry was young and Joe was taking care of him. There is a familial love between the two, and this episode demonstrates one of its best assets with this duo. Heroes are rarely as interesting alone as they are with a friend or confidant, and that’s what Joe is to Barry. So even though Barry lashes out at him about not being his father, Joe still cares and Barry is still willing to rush into gunfire to save him.
In the end, Barry apologizes to Joe, and in a superbly earnest scene tells Joe that he does see him in a fatherly light: he fed him, kept him in clothes, taught him how to drive and how to shave, everything his father would have done but couldn’t and everything that Joe didn’t have to do but still chose to do. Joe tells Barry that he’s going to help him free his father and find his mother’s real murderer, and it’s a nice moment of triumph for both characters.
The characters who still concern me the most are the younger supporting cast. Candice Patton is still getting very little to do other than be involved in a poorly drawn love triangle between her, Barry and Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), and while Carlos Valdes and Danielle Panabaker both have nice screen presence, neither Cisco or Caitlin seem like fully formed characters yet. Arrow thrived on its supporting characters when its lead character had to navigate a more boring persona, and while The Flash is lucky enough to have the winning performance of Grant Gustin, it doesn’t mean that the show can survive solely on his shoulders.
It is, however, another strong week for more veteran performers: Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin. Both have assumed protective positions in Barry’s life: Detective West when Barry was still a child and blaming him for the incarceration of his father, and Harrison Wells when Barry came out of his coma and his abilities were fully realized. Both men want to keep him safe, but it would seem the intentions of the latter aren’t all that clear.
The end of the episode has Wells killing Stagg and saying that he needs to keep Barry alive. Once again we’re reminded that Wells can walk and that his intentions aren’t exactly pure, but what is he planning and how does he factor into Barry’s future? We’ll have to wait to find out.
Despite a lot of rehashing what we already saw in the pilot episode, “Fastest Man Alive” was another strong episode and in many ways better than the first. It’s a confident start for the show and knows that it can jump straight into the lore of the Flash character, Barry Allen, and his foes, as well as create some real-life drama all the while creating an entertaining 40 minute show. I’ve already begun to anticipate next week’s episode, and despite the amount of television I watch (and due to post-grad life that’s quite a bit), The Flash is the show that has me the most enthusiastic.