Okay, so silly sepia-toned flashbacks aside, tonight’s The Flash was yet another strong installment in which Barry once again tests the limitations of his powers and Iris is allowed more agency over her storyline and, and, Eddie gets to be adorable rather than the big jerk boyfriend to Barry.
I love this show. I love this show because of how much fun it seems to be having, I love it for how well cast Grant Gustin is as the Fastest Man Alive, and I love that the characters are emotional, not dark or brooding, but empathetic and excited. I think it’s a show that falls short every now and then, particularly when it comes to dialogue (what adjective hasn’t Iris used at this point), and the reliance on similar pacing techniques, but, as tonight’s episode “The Flash Is Born” shows us, The Flash is doing its all to provide some excellent, hour long entertainment as well as an hour of action-packed escapism. It just so happens that the characters are also immensely likable, even when some (like Dr. Wells) are obviously not on the side of the heroes.
The episode starts and ends with the nice touch of Iris speaking the opening and closing monologues, repeating verbatim much of what Barry has already said himself, but with Iris speaking the same words it takes on a different feel and we’re allowed the perspective of the one real character on the outside looking in on Barry’s secret life. All she sees is the mysterious red streak, this miracle who is saving people, and she’s enchanted. She’s seeing a real life superhero, and by the episode’s end when he’s earned his new pseudonym, it feels like an easy, natural progression.
The episode is all about bullies and, more significantly, Barry’s childhood bully who is reincarnated as a man who can turn into a man of steel.
We all caught the joke, right? No one late to the party? Okay, cool, onwards!
While he faces off with his childhood nemesis, he consistently gets his ass handed to him. First he breaks his hand punching the titanium arm, before being thrown like a rag doll. Their next face off ends with Barry nearly literally being squashed, and by this point it’s seemingly impossible for the science gang to come up with any viable option for Barry to save the day. This is all intercut with flashbacks of Barry being taught how to fight by Joe and Joe telling him that to fight well you need to fight smart, and if you’re smart you know sometimes you need to run away. We also get Eddie and Barry bonding time as Barry realizes that Eddie isn’t a terrible guy and the two blow off steam by boxing some more.
All of this hits its peak when Iris is captured and brought back to their old middle school, where Tony Goodward – the baddie – has decided to take her and make her write about him and not The Flash. Work on your master plan dude.
SIDENOTE: Okay, so I’ve heard of the people who hit their highs in High School, who are always talking about their glory years and I guess, even if it wasn’t my favorite place in the world, that I understand some people who say so. But loving Middle School? That is just sadistic. Middle School is hell for everyone. SIDENOTE OVER.
Barry races to save Iris, and at first it seems like the fight is going as poorly as the rest until he takes a step back (okay, maybe more like a number of miles back), takes a deep breath and runs, full speed into Tony, turning him back into flesh and blood. The little bit of CGI they do with Barry’s eyes to show the lighting going through them has to be one of my favorite tricks of theirs, however small. It’s a great moment, made greater a second later when Iris gets the knockout punch.
Barry gets to lock Tony up with a pretty one-note message of “Once a bully, always a bully,” but it’s made a little less hackneyed a moment later when he does a victory fist pump. Barry is a likable character, and Gustin is a likable actor: these two factors mesh well.
The episode also spends some time with Wells and Joe, as they both try to figure out the other’s ulterior motives and secrets. Wells gets some backstory, namely a tragic past with a woman named Tess, which causes Joe to pull back and apologize for questioning him at all.
The episode ends with the yellow streak from the first episode bounding around Joe’s house and leaving him a threat against Iris. Things are heating up on The Flash, and with the Arrow crossover right around the corner, my excitement is only becoming greater.