This week on The Flash, Barry Allen and the Star Labs crew deal with a woman who can create bombs with a single touch, and Joe and Barry try to convince Iris to quit searching for the Streak. Despite breaking off for a week after the season’s high with Felicity making a guest appearance, the show returns with the same momentum, continuing to prove that it’s the show to beat this fall. Its quality doesn’t match some of its fellow contemporaries and still has a lot of growing room, but it’s certainly one of the most flat-out enjoyable series currently airing, and it does so by creating conflict through levity and joy. It isn’t all fun and games on The Flash, but it’s earnest.
The episode “Plastique” does a greater job of solidifying secondary characters with little moments. Caitlin having test tube vials in her purse, Cisco’s outrage at Barry destroying the suit, Iris’s initial belief in the Streak because of her affection towards Barry, even Joe’s incredulous laughter at Barry’s trick at altering the sound of his voice: all of these moments, however slight, succeed at informing what we know of these characters as well as settling them as people rather than sketches.
The character gets some welcome time dedicated to her this week as the repercussions of Barry and Joe’s lies begin to show themselves. Iris is a smart young woman; she’s known Barry all her life and she knows when he’s lying to her. However, as with most superheroes and their secret identities, Barry and Joe have decided that she’d be safer if she didn’t know his true identity. Joe talking to her doesn’t change her mind, Barry talking to her just angers her as she tells him incredulously that he’s always believed in the supernatural and bizarre and now, when Iris does too, he’s doubtful? He tells her in a manipulative move that it’s a way of moving past his family’s history and that she should do the same.
Barry is able to tell that she isn’t convinced and, in a move very much a nod to the Superman and Lois Lane interview scene, The Flash meets Iris where she works and the two go to the roof in one of the show’s best scenes to date, due to the mixture of emotional poignancy and CGI speeder effects. Iris tells The Flash that her belief in him first stemmed from wanting to help Barry and see the way he does. It’s a sweet scene, but he too tells her, or asks her, to please stop blogging about him.
Stubborn and persistent, Iris isn’t ready to give up. She wants the world to know about their city’s guardian and her refusal to back down, and her adding her name to her article’s byline drives Barry to his breaking point. The two of them talk again, and this time it ends with the two deciding to not see each other for a while. This is a significant decision considering earlier in the episode Barry realized Joe knew about his feelings for Iris, but it also makes sense even if it’s frustrating. It’ s a way to break the characters up for a while, add some drama and some need to rebuild trust, and it’s a way for Barry to dodge questions that he has the answers to but has to lie about to the girl he loves.
Elsewhere in the episode is Plastique, a meta-human who isn’t a villain but is having a hard time controlling her abilities. She’s been questioned, probed and experimented on by Army officials, and she escapes into the Star Labs care. However, Wells, Cisco and Caitlin tell Barry that they can’t just let her hang around considering she’s literally a walking, talking, ticking time bomb.
She’s helped less when Wells tricks her into going after her previous captor, whom Wells has a troubled past with, and just as Barry races to stop her, she’s shot. Her body is turned into the bomb, ready to detonate at any moment, and Barry has to test his limits and run on water to dispose of her body in a safe place and then make it away far enough so that the blast doesn’t kill him. It’s just one of the cool visual tricks of the episode, the first being when Barry learns he can run up a building to save a man’s life. Barry’s excitement at each new development makes it even more enjoyable for fans who are simply pleased to see a superhero thrilled with his powers.
It’s another strong episode, and the ending scene with Wells and Gorilla Grodd had me feeling like a very content superhero fan. How they’re going to manage a Grodd storyline or if they’re even going to attempt it is still up in the air, but I’m just happy they’re going to try.